à Tokyo, une discussion avec LAURENCE KEEFE
Interview & Photography Farade Nicolas (issue06)
The last interview I did in Tokyo wasn’t supposed to happen. In fact, it was done exactly 4 days before my departure. Uruma Masanori (Skate Distributor) was the one who introduce me to Laurence. We met at his new office and had a nice chat around a cup a coffee about his arrival in Japan, encounters & his new job position.
Laurence Keefe, I am 29 and I am from England.
I was born in London but I grew up in the suburbs. I have pretty much stopped school at 16 so I didn’t really finish High School then I went to an Art School for 2 years, it was like College after that I left London and went living abroad
How were you introduced to skateboarding?
Pretty much always had a skateboard, somehow, I think the first one my mom found a skateboard in a thrift store and brought one for me and at 10 years old, I started to skate a normal board.
Must be cool to have parents that pushes you to do it. You know I spoke to Uruma and for him, it wasn’t like that at all.
Yes it’s kinda a bad look in Japan to be seeing skating. In Japanese culture it’s really bad to bother anyone else. If you look at any people here, they don’t wanna make noises or be in someone way, they are really respectful of people they don’t know around them. Skateboarding is totally the opposite of that way of living, it’s like making fucking noise, breaking shit, it’s not a normal way to behave in Japan. Now maybe with the Olympics things might change...
So you left London to move to Spain, Barcelona. Didn’t you knew people there or did you just left home like that?
To be honest I think my parents perhaps thought that I would be back within a few months, you knowthat I will be running out of money and then come home but I am almost 30 now and I didn’t really come back, a part from casual visit. But yeah, basically went there with a skateboard and a backpack and I got a job learning English.
Without a degree?
Yes, I was mostly working 3 days a week, I was making 800 euros a month or something and I was skating as much as I could.
Barcelona was and still is the mecca of skateboarding, however for us some of the French people just go there to party because life is cheap as hell.
Totally I lived 5 years in Barcelona, and that is probably one of the reason I left in the end cuz it’s like «Never, Never Land». It is too easy to be there and have a crazy lifestyle,you are there, want to skate, party, and nothing really happens, no real action there that you could find in London, Paris or Tokyo. Nothing moves foward.
Did you move around Europe?
Maybe around 2008 - 2009, I planned a few trip. I saved money for a year, go on a big skate trip for a month or so, comeback, working, saving and living again.
You met people there?
Yes, I was already going on trip before but I met this filmaker Patrick Wallner and ended up going to New York for 3 months, he was living there, invited me on a trip from Moscow to Hong Kong by train. That was my first visual travelling experience with a group of friends and since then I do this every year, it has been 8 years.
Alien Workshop videos blew my mind when I was younger and always made me wanted to grab my board and skate.
Older skate from my hometown made me 3 VHS tapes with bootleg videos on them with GIRLS Skateboard - Mouse, then some random porn clips, it was like 50 % skate, 50 % porn. The old FTC videos, San Fransisco old era and stuff... Few of the skaters that I watched while growing up had sponsors or had been in the states for awhile.
What about the VISA stuff, do you have a working one now?
It’s cool I got to renewed every year which is a pain the ass. But now I think with this company it is pretty legit so it should be good now. Certain things are harsh, they don’t break the rules here. Even things that are so easy in your own country is a fucking mission here.
Then you need to speak Japanese to get all the forms right.
Yes and you need to write as well. They won’t write it for you. Interviews as well so imagine you got a job for a big company even then you can’t do that thing yourself. If you don’t really kind of deeply understand why people do or say certain things you’re gonna loose your mind. But good things about being here in a way there are obviously obstacles however it’s a country that has been built on making things convenient for people. No one steals your shit, no one fucks with you, no one ever wants fight you, you can leave your laptop on the train whatever, someone will bring it back to you.
Is that true? Have you experienced something like that?
Well I live in Barcelona for 5 years so I am pretty on point with not forgetting things. I totally feel comfortable here, go to a coffee shop by myself with my laptop and phone leaving on the table and go at the toilet, it’s school no one’s gonna touch it.
Any racisms experiences?